The UFC heads to Utah for a huge welterweight showdown as Kamaru Usman defenders his 170-pound crown against Leon Edwards in the main event.
The two fight for a second time, with neither fighter suffering defeat since the first showing back in 2015 and are supported by an undercard including Paulo Costa, Luke Rockhold, Jose Aldo, Merab Dvalishvili, Alexandr Romanov, Miranda Maverick and more.
Last time out at UFC San Diego we went 8/13 with three perfect picks to move to 698/1082 (64.51%) with 295 perfect picks (42.26%). You can see our full picks history here.
Miranda Maverick (12-4) vs Shanna Young (9-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very intriguing women’s flyweight bout up next. Maverick suffered tough back-to-back defeats against Maycee Barber and then Erin Blanchfield (UFC 269) before finally getting back in the win column against Sabina Mazo via submission most recently. Young on the other hand lost to Macy Chiasson and then go KO’d by Stephanie Egger (UFC Vegas 13) before getting a win last time out against Gina Mazany back in April.
Maverick is a really well-rounded fighter who excels in the grappling, with some solid wrestling and good striking too. Young is a striker who struggles for power, and has been taken down by every opponent she’s faced in the UFC who has attempted to take her down. This seems like a big setup for Maverick to garner some more momentum, because I can’t see how Young wins this.
Maverick is bigger, stronger, more powerful and has the perfect skillset to become a real contender in this division. She’ll likely toy with Young on the feet to test herself before shooting for a takedown early and dominating, before eventually taking the back and sinking in a tight choke for the win. PICK – Miranda Maverick via Submission, Round 2
Sean Woodson (9-1) vs Luis Saldana (16-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun featherweight scrap up next. Woodson has picked up consecutive wins in his last two fights, earning a decision over Youssef Zalal (UFC Vegas 28) before knocking out Collin Anglin at UFC Vegas 42 with nasty body shots. Saldana beat Jordan Griffin in his UFC debut back at UFC Vegas 23 and then suffered defeat to Austin Lingo, before a decision win over Bruno Souza last time out.
Woodson is a boxer, straight up. He’s a former professional who has got an incredible frame for the division at just under 6ft 3 with a 78 inch reach and tremendous boxing combinations. Saldana is a really well rounded fighter with his finishes split 8-6 with knockouts and submissions, but his cardio often lets him down big style.
That’s an issue here, especially considering Saldana likes to keep his hands low. Woodson will use his picture perfect jab to maintain the distance between the two and his takedown defence is good enough to avoid going to the mat. Expect Woodson to put on a striking clinic and earn another judges scorecard victory. PICK – Sean Woodson via Decision
Leonardo Santos (18-6-1) vs Jared Gordon (18-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Lightweight scrap up next between two veterans of the sport. Santos was KO’d with one second remaining against Grant Dawson at UFC Vegas 22, before being submitted by Clay Guida at UFC Vegas 44 most recently. Gordon on the other hand also got beaten by Grant Dawson in his last fight, getting submitted in April.
Santos is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist with amazing submission skills making up 50% of his career wins to date. His striking is pretty awful but he does have a big one-punch swing, however his cardio means it all becomes pretty obsolete after about 6 minutes of fighting. Gordon is the opposite. He’s a solid striker on the feet with good takedown defence and some decent offensive wrestling too, while his chin has been known to be fragile recently. That said though, he weaponises his cardio so well that I expect this to get one-sided quickly.
Gordon should be able to see the big punch of Santos coming early enough to avoid it, and if he can survive any grappling attempts in the first round the fight becomes his to lose. Expect him to just completely wear Santos out with his pace before claiming a late finish with ground and pound to make the referee step in. PICK – Jared Gordon via Knockout, Round 3
Marcin Tybura (22-7) vs Alexandr Romanov (16-0) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights collide up next in the featured prelim bout. Tybura had been on a five-fight win streak with wins over Sergei Spivak, Maxim Grishin (UFC 251), Ben Rothwell (UFC Fight Island 5), Greg Hardy (UFC Vegas 17) and Walt Harris (UFC Vegas 28), before defeat to Alexander Volkov most recently. Romanov is an undefeated fighter, whose impressive run of wins has seen him earn a step up in competition here.
Tybura is a solid fighter with some really good low kicks and good strikes, while his best style comes when he looks to wrestle his opponents and control them from the top position. Romanov is a Greko-Roman wrestler with an incredible power and ability to throw opponents, as well as excellent cardio to go for the whole fight. He has shown his ability to defend against submissions too, and that leads me to think he gets it done here.
He’s the more powerful guy in terms of the grappling and while Tybura is the slightly bigger guy right now, his best chance of victory comes exactly where Tybura will likely want the fight to be. Tybura is tough and I can’t imagine he gets finished here, but Romanov should be able to get the top position regularly in each round and claim a win on the judge’s scorecards. PICK – Alexandr Romanov via Decision
After a banger of a pay-per-view card last weekend the UFC returns to their APEX in Las Vegas for a big light heavyweight headline fight card as Thiago Santos takes on Magomed Ankalaev in the main event.
The 205-pound division is wide open at the top end and a big win for either man could see them enter title contention in the very near future.
We’ll also see Marlon Moraes take on Song Yadong in a bantamweight co-main event, while the likes of Drew Dober, Terrance McKinney, Miranda Maverick and Alex Pereira competing too in a sneakily stacked card.
Last time out at UFC 272 we went 9/13 with four perfect picks to move to 557/865 (64.39%) with 238 perfect picks (42.73%) with our picks.
We’ll look to improve on that going forward, starting with the early prelims on this 14-fight card here.
Tafon Nchukwi (6-1) vs Azamat Murzakanov (10-0) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An interesting light heavyweight bout opens the card up here. Nchukwi picked up a win in last fight, earning a decision over Mike Rodriguez most recently after suffering the first loss of his career prior to that against Jun Yong Park at UFC Vegas 26. Murzakanov makes his UFC debut in this one as an undefeated fighter.
Nchukwi is an explosive striker with good wrestling skills, but a real lack of speed to go with his karate background. Murzakanov on the other hand is a very quick 205-pounder, with a Sambo background to match up in the grappling and serious power in his hands and feet too. Nchukwi has a big problem with his volume and while a lack of speed isn’t usually too much of an issue in this weight class, Murzakanov is much faster than the average light heavyweight.
Technically on the feet Murzakanov is a better striker, has a serious speed advantage, is just as powerful and can match up (if not better) Nchukwi on the ground. This is all set up for a mightily impressive performance from the debutant to earn a big win. PICK – Azamat Murzakanov via Knockout, Round 2
Kris Moutinho (9-5) vs Guido Cannetti (8-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fan favourite returns looking to get his first win in the UFC in this one. Kris Moutinho earned a boat-load of fans for his heart and performance in defeat to Sean O’Malley on short-notice at UFC 264, while Cannetti returned after one year away to suffer a split-decision loss against Leomana Martinez at UFC Vegas 35 to make it three losses in a row.
Moutinho is a pressure fighter who has a granite chin and undeniable cardio, while Cannetti is a powerful striker with good wrestling but horrendous cardio. The question for this fight is simple; can Cannetti get him out of there in the first round? If not, he’s going to lose this fight.
Moutinho will not stop coming forward and that will wear on Cannetti. ‘Ninja’ could look to earn a takedown or two to get some control, but Moutinho has got some decent takedown defence too. If he fails, that just empties the gas tank quicker and while Moutinho isn’t the most powerful the volume could add up and see him earn a stoppage via accumulation. PICK – Kris Moutinho via Knockout, Round 3
Dalcha Lungiambula (11-3) vs Cody Brundage (6-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Very interesting middleweight fight up next between two relative UFC newcomers. Lungiambula is 2-2 in the company alternating his wins and losses, with the most recent win coming against Markus Perez at UFC Fight Island 8 and a defeat to Marc-Andre Barriault at UFC Vegas 36. Brundage suffered defeat in his UFC debut to Nick Maximov at UFC 266 via decision.
Lungiambula is a powerhouse who uses looping strikes and patience, while he has a good judo background and a solid leg kick too. Brundage however is a grinding wrestler, which looks to spell big trouble for the former LFA double champion. Lungiambula has a tendency to load up his strikes too much and move backwards towards the cage, which against a wrestler is a formula for trouble.
Brundage does leave his chin exposed sometimes and if he gets caught with a lazy entry then he could very well wake up staring at the ceiling, but the likelihood is that he gets to the hips, gets takedowns and just grinds his way to an impressive decision win. PICK – Cody Brundage via Decision
Sabina Mazo (9-3) vs Miranda Maverick (11-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very good women’s flyweight bout up next between two hot prospects at 125-pounds. Mazo went 3-1 in her first four UFC fights but has since suffered defeat in each of her last two, dropping a decision to Alexis Davis at UFC Vegas 20 and then being submitted by Mariya Agapova at UFC Vegas 39. Maverick opened her career with a 2-0 start in the UFC, but then suffered short-notice defeats to both Maycee Barber and Erin Blanchfield at UFC 269 in her most recent bouts.
Mazo is a striker but has really struggled to impress in the organisation so far, with even her victories showing her struggles more than her triumphs in the cage. Maverick on the other hand has been the opposite, dominating her opponents while her defeat to barber was controversial and Blanchfield is a stunning prospect in her own right. Stylistically, she is a strong wrestler who is very aggressive with her striking and her pace is relentless. That spells big trouble for ‘Colombian Queen’.
She has struggled badly in the past against wrestle-heavy opponents like Davis, while on the feet she lacks the volume to keep Maverick at range. Despite a big size advantage in height and reach, expect Maverick to overpower Mazo into clinch or wrestling situations to claim an impressive win. PICK – Miranda Maverick via Decision
Fast paced start to this fight as Robertson looks to take the centre and attempts a couple of takedowns early. Cachoeira defends them well and is starting to land some decent strikes on the feet, landing good jabs and starting to do damage. Robertson suddenly changes levels in the centre though and scores a nice takedown before looking to secure a kimura lock. She transitions into side control and then full mount and starts raining down huge elbows! Cachoeira is in danger and Robertson switches to the back and gets a choke in under the neck. Cachoeira tries to defend it by sticking her thumb in Robertson’s eye but she refuses to let it go and then gets the tap with one second left! What a performance!
Tony Kelley def Randy Costa via Knockout, Round 2 (2:15)
Very fast start from Kelley who steps forward immediately and starts chasing Costa across the cage looking to land big shots. Costa trying to weather the storm and countering with his jab, but Kelley continuing to come forward aggressively. Clinch against the cage and Kelley is trying to wear on Costa early, landing some nice knees but Costa seemingly the stronger fighter physically. Kelley switching stances as he throws his combinations and Costa is struggling to make reads, before they clinch up against the cage once again and tangle until the end of the round. 10-9 Kelley.
Another fast start from Kelley as he comes forward quickly again and starts the clinch battles again once again. Costa looks a little fatigued but he’s defending himself well and and staying in it. Costa starting to land his jabs well but Kelley closing the distance and making this fight ugly. Costa lands a nice kick and follows it up with a short right hand that hurts Kelley, but he clinches up quickly and starts defending. Kelley gets him in a Thai clinch and lands some big knees to the body and Costa drops to his knees! Kelley battering the body and thrashing elbows onto Costa who’s just trying to defend himself now. Kelley going for the finish and the referee steps in! What a performance from Kelley.
Ryan Hall def Darrick Minner via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-27)
Tactical start to the fight from both guys here as Minner lands a couple of leg kicks and misses wildly with some big strikes. Hall very patient and lands a nice body kick and then Hall shoots for the legs. Lots of transitions and rolling for submissions but Minner defending against the kneebars and heel hook attempts well. Minner gets back to the feet and lands a big right hand that cracks Hall who starts to retreat. Hall starts to go for a takedown again and ends up in top position landing some decent ground and pound to end the round. 10-9 either way, but I lean to Hall just.
Hall coming out more aggressive now as he starts swinging kicks, before Minner lands a nice right hand and gets a takedown as Hall goes for a leg. Minner in Hall’s full guard and looking for ground and pound, but Hall is looking to throw up an armbar or triangle submission. Minner stands up and slams Hall down to escape it and goes back for ground and pound. Hall throws up another triangle and it’s tight and he starts throwing big elbows from his back but Minner surviving. Hall looks to advance to a straight armbar but Minner denies it and then he rolls to an omoplata attempt and ends the round with ground and pound. 20-18 Hall.
Final round and Hall rolls under a punch and secures a triangle attempt immediately from his back. Minner defends it well but Hall then switches and is able to get on top. He advances to full mount and is in complete control here, looking for an arm triangle.
Erin Blanchfield def Miranda Maverick via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Good start to the bout for Maverick as she steps forward aggressively and throws a few strong strikes. Maverick looks to step in with a right hand but Blanchfield ducks under and immediately has a body lock from the back. She maintains the lock and continuously forces Maverick to the ground with excellent wrestling. She moves to full guard and maintains position again, dragging Maverick to the mat every time she tries to get back to the feet. 10-9 Blanchfield.
Maverick starts up well with a little blitz but immediately Blanchfield is able to hip throw her and end up on top. Blanchfield quickly transitions to a crucifix position and starts blasting elbows down on Maverick, but she manages to just about escape as Blanchfield switches to an armbar attempt. Maverick just about defends but Blanchfield then goes for a kimura, but Maverick defends it well. Blanchfield switches to another armbar attempt but Maverick defends it by scissoring the head of her and the buzzer goes. 20-18.
Final round and Maverick is trying to go for a finish because she knows she needs it, but Blanchfield is landing well too. Clinch up against the cage and then Blanchfield catches a leg and moves straight into a takedown. She moves into top control and looks to dominate again and starts landing some big shots from mount. She controls the rest of the round from the top and claims a dominant decision win.
Andre Muniz def Eryk Anders via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:13)
Good start to the fight for Anders as he takes the centre and starts to throw powerful strikes early. Muniz does well and throws a nice calf kick before throwing a short left hook. Anders goes for a right hand again and Muniz ducks under and changes levels with a big takedown. Muniz looks to pass from side control straight into mount but Anders defends it well. Anders gets to his feet but Muniz has a body lock and drags him back down after a bit of back and forth and takes the back. He threatens with a choke and then switches to an armbar attempt and forces the tap from Anders. What a performance.
Bruno Silva def Jordan Wright via Knockout, Round 1 (1:28)
Crazy start to this fight as Wright charges forward and looks to engage quickly with hard strikes. Wright continues to come forward and attack and he hurts Silva! They clinch up and Wright lands some big knees but Silva lands some big strikes too. They separate and Silva lands two huge blows and Wright is wobbled! Silva goes for the finish and drops him! Some huge shots and the referee steps in! What a KO by Silva!
Tai Tuivasa def Augusto Sakai via Knockout, Round 2 (0:26)
Slow and steady start so far with Tuivasa in the centre stalking Sakai, who’s throwing leg kicks and circling on the outside. Tuivasa goes for a nice combination and Sakai retreats, before they clinch up and Sakai lands a nice knee to the body. More knees to the body from Sakai as he holds Tuivasa close to him, before they separate and Tuivasa just misses with a big uppercut. Sakai landing heavy knees and hurting Tuivasa, but he then retaliates with a big right hand and forces Sakai to cover up before they clinch again to end the round. 10-9 Sakai, but Tuivasa looking dangerous too.
Second round and Tuivasa lands a huge left hook early and Sakai is rocked! Tuivasa steps forward and goes for the kill, landing huge hooks as Sakai tries to cover up. Another huge strike and Sakai is out coldddd! What a KO!
Dominick Cruz def Pedro Munhoz via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to this fight as both guys look to take the centre and trade leg kicks and movement. Munhoz throwing hard low kicks but Cruz making him miss big. Munhoz throwing bombs but only just missing and Cruz is doing well to land blitzes and flurries of strikes. Cruz goes for a big right hand and Munhoz lands first with a big left hand that drops him! Munhoz lands a huge left hook and goes for the finish but Cruz grabs a leg and somehow survives. He gets up and continues the pattern of the earlier fight. 10-9 Munhoz.
Second round and Munhoz coming forward again and looking for his big bombs. Cruz using his excellent footwork well again though and is using his speed brilliantly. Cruz throwing great combinations on the feet and Munhoz is eating shots, but there isn’t enough power in them to hurt him. Cruz throws a hard low kick that hurts Munhoz and continues to throw his strikes brilliantly. 19-19.
Final round and Cruz has definitely taken over now with his speed and footwork. Cruz has made his reads now and is landing his combinations well, but Munhoz is throwing powerful strikes back and just barely missing. Cruz lands a big one-two clean down the pipe and Munhoz is starting to back up a little. Munhoz lands some nice jabs but Cruz is too slick and is moving so well, throwing leg kicks and left hands. Cruz lands a big combo in the centre as the round comes to an end and that should be the comeback victory for him. 29-28 Cruz.
Josh Emmett def Dan Ige via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Nothing happens between these two in the opening minute and them Emmett explodes with a massive overhand right that drops Ige! Emmett goes down for a finish but Ige recovers quickly and starts to wrestle. Both guys scramble well and end up back to their feet where they separate. Ige taking the centre now and using his jab well and sees out the round relatively comfortably. 10-9 Emmett most likely for the knockdown, but could go either way in honesty.
Emmett comes out with a big right hand early once again but Ige takes it and continues to come forward. Good exchanges on the feet and Ige landing his jab well with movement and power. Emmett looking for one big shot but he keeps missing it. Ige replies with a big strikes and wobbles Emmett with a big left hook. He stays patient and Emmett eventually recovers. Ige staying so calm though and using that jab well again, circling on the outside and threatening then ending the round with a big right straight. 19-19, Ige round.
Final round and Ige takes the centre once again, looking to use that jab and counter with his left hook. Emmett still looking for the power right hand but Ige seems to have him scouted now. Emmett steps forward and throws a straight right down the middle and wobbles Ige but he recovers very quickly and circles out. Ige lands his jab over and over, but Emmett is being more aggressive and coming forward. Both guys are missing with big shots as we enter the final minute. Emmett ducks under a big head kick but then eats a big uppercut. Both guys throw a final flurry, but that’s a super tough fight to call. Great fight.
Sean O’Malley def Raulian Paiva via Knockout, Round 1 (4:42)
Composed start to this fight from both guys as Paiva looks for an early takedown attempt but O’Malley sidesteps him into the cage. Body kick grazes the cup of Paiva and causes a short pause in the action. Paiva throws a hard low kick that gets a reaction, before O’Malley steps in with a hard straight left hand. Paiva trying to apply pressure but O’Malley moving well and avoids a leg kick then lands two left jabs and a big right hand behind it. O’Malley steps well to his right and lands a huge right hand that wobbles Paiva! He stays composed and lands a beautiful combination that hurts him badly! Huge body shot and hook combo drops Paiva and the referee steps in, huge win for O’Malley! Amazing!
Kai Kara-France def Cody Garbrandt via Knockout, Round 1 (3:21)
Lots of range finding in the opening minute of this fight as Garbrandt finds himself with his back against the cage circling, throwing some loose kicks. Kara-France just misses with a big overhand right and then just avoids a big right-hook from Garbrandt. Kara-France lands a big right hand that flattens Garbrandt! A big follow up shot drops him again but Garbrandt retreats and eggs him on, but he’s clearly hurt! Kara-France staying patient and then he lands a stunning combination that ends with a massive uppercut and Garbrandt is out! Kara-France lands a couple of strikes before Herb Dean steps in, but that’s that! What a KO!
Geoff Neal def Santiago Ponzinibbio via Split Decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
Steady start to the fight for Neal with plenty of bouncing on his toes and throwing his jab and some leg kicks, forcing Ponzinibbio backwards. Both guys trade leg kicks and are starting to try and hold their ground in the centre. Neal lands a nice high kick and the referee warns both fighters about having their fingers out. A few short strikes each but not much damage so far. Neal using his jab well and both guys exchange before an accidental low kick from Neal causes a pause. They get back to it and Ponzinibbio lands a huge one-two right on the buzzer to end the round. 10-9 Neal for me.
More active start to the round as Ponzinibbio comes forward with a hard low kick and some straight right hands. Big one-two from Ponzinibbio down the middle to counter Neal’s leg kick and then a short right hand from Neal lands too. Ponzinibbio changes levels and blasts a takedown before Neal sweeps him to get back to his feet nearly immediately. Hard left hand lands from Neal, but Ponzinibbio lands a nice left jab-right hand. Neal lands a hard right hand but then eats a big leg kick in return, before a one-two of his own down the middle into the final minute of the round. Neal lands a big shot and Ponzinibbio claims it was a finger but the referee says no. They stare at each other and then trade a couple of strikes before the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and Ponzinibbio lands a right hand before Neal lands a left. More exchanges in the centre and Neal lands a hard right hook that wobbles Ponzinibbio but he recovers quickly and lands a hard low kick. Neal starting to come forward and throws his left hand before a left high kick that just misses. Right hand gets a reaction from Ponzinibbio again, but then he lands a hard low kick to get Neal to back up. Hard left hand from Neal lands but Ponzinibbio replies with a solid right hook himself. Hard low kick and Neal steps backwards, but then he counters another attempt with a right hand. Neal coming on strong with jabs but Ponzinibbio continues to come forward too. Neal lands a big three-punch combo with the left hand and Ponzinibbio is wobbled! Final 30 seconds and Ponzinibbio just misses with a right hand to end the fight. Good fight. 29-28 Neal for me.
Nunes opens up with a hard low kick that drops Pena immediately. Nunes lets her up and kicks the leg again, before Pena tries to throw a small flurry. Nunes throws a right hand that drops Pena and then she eventually drops on top of her looking to control on the ground. Nunes looks to transition to the back for a rear-naked choke but Pena just about defends it, before Nunes gets back to top position. Pena threatens with a kimura from the bottom but Nunes stays patient, defends it and sees the round out on top. 10-9 champ.
Nunes takes the centre and she starts looking for huge strikes early doors but Pena isn’t going anywhere. Pena is landing her jab at will and Nunes is getting hurt! Nunes trying to slug it out but she’s slow and looks exhausted already. Pena keeps coming and is smashing Nunes up! Big strikes from Pena and Nunes is rocked! Pena goes for a takedown and immediately goes to the back and locks up a choke! NUNES TAPS! NUNES TAPS! AND NEWWWW!!!
Charles Oliveira def Dustin Poirier via Submission (Rear-naked choke), Round 3 (1:02)
Fast paced start to the fight as Oliveira looks to take the centre and land body shots and his jab, but Poirier lands a right hand that knocks Oliveira off balance. Oliveira lands a big strike of his own and backs Poirier up and then he clinches looking for knees. Poirier getting kicked in the body and firing back with big combinations and drops Oliveira again. He lands a huge shot on the ground but Oliveira ties him up and then Poirier stands them up again immediately. Body work from Oliveira again is affecting Poirier and the rounds ends. Wow. 10-9 Poirier.
Huge start to the second round again as the frantic pace starts again and Oliveira immediately goes in for a takedown against the cage. He drags Poirier to the ground but as he tries to escape Oliveira takes the back. Poirier tries to escape but Oliveira holds his arm in place and illegally holds the glove before rolling into full guard. He lands some huge, thudding elbows as Poirier looks to defend off his back. Oliveira absolutely dominant with pressure and elbows but Poirier survives. 19-19.
Oliveira comes out fast once again and shoots in for a takedown and immediately transitions to a body lock from behind. He drags Poirier down and then jumps on to his back, sinking in hooks and looking for a standing rear-naked choke. Poirier defending the hands but Oliveira continues to switch the grips, sinks in the choke and forces the tap! Amazing!! What a fight!
Last time at UFC Vegas 44 we had a pretty good night with our picks, as we went 9/13 with five perfect picks to move to 491/765 (64.18%) with 207 perfect picks (42.16%).
We’ll look to improve on that here on this massive 15-fight card, starting with the early prelims.
Gillian Robertson (9-6) vs Priscilla Cachoeira (10-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A women’s flyweight bout opens up the card live from the T-Mobile Arena. Robertson has lost her last two-in-a-row against Taila Santos at UFC Vegas 17 and Miranda Maverick at UFC 260, while Cachoeira has won her last two via knockout against Shana Dobson and then Gina Mazany at UFC 262.
Robertson is a skilled grappler who is very keen on securing takedowns and then working her submission game, scoring six submission wins in her career. Cachoeira on the other hand is a strong striker with good power and solid stand-up skills, but she has had troubles with the grappling game in the past.
Cachoeira has the ability to end this fight on the feet, but if it goes to the ground then it’s all Robertson. Robertson has better cardio than Mazany, who dominated Cachoeira in their bout before her cardio ran out. Robertson shouldn’t have any such issues and if she can secure the takedown early with her wrestling, then she has the skills on the ground to tie up and early submission win. PICK – Gillian Robertson via Submission, Round 1
Randy Costa (6-2) vs Tony Kelley (7-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger at 135-pounds up next. Costa has been impressive in victory and defeat so far in the UFC, but was stopped in his last fight by Adrian Yanez at UFC Vegas 32. Kelley on the other hand is 1-1 in the UFC so far, with a win over Ali AlQaisi at UFC Fight Island 5 last year coming via decision last time out.
Costa is a brilliant young boxer, with excellent combinations and head movement to go with his power and kicking game too. Kelley is a well-rounded fighter who can mix up takedowns with some striking on the feet. Costa’s biggest issue in this fight is his cardio, because he seems to fade in the second round every time. He throws with great power but it goes against his gas tank, but if he slows it down his technical deficiencies come to the surface.
Kelley is going to have issues here. He is skilled enough to cause problems, but his big flaws play straight into Costa’s strengths and that likely leads to a short night. He throws lots of naked kicks while in range of his opponent and he doesn’t defend his body relatively well, so expect Costa to drop him early with a counter and finish it with follow up shots. PICK – Randy Costa via Knockout, Round 1
Ryan Hall (8-2) vs Darrick Minner (26-12) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A grappler’s paradise in this one between two of the best jiu-jitsu artists in the game. Ryan Hall saw his winning streak snapped at UFC 264 when he got KO’d by Ilia Topuria, while Minner got KO’d by Darren Elkins at UFC Vegas 32 in his last outing too.
Both of these guys are jiu-jitsu masters. Hall is one of the most feared submission artists in the world, with his leg lock attacks absolutely brutal and dangerous. Minner is just as feared in the grappling world in MMA, with his 22 submission wins in his career. Defensively though, Minner has been submitted eight times himself and that shows that he isn’t the best when he’s not on offense.
Hall is the greatest jiu-jitsu player in MMA since the Gracie’s probably and with both of these guys guaranteed to try and take it to the ground, it’s just an open goal to Hall eventually claiming a submission win yet again. PICK – Ryan Hall via Submission, Round 1
Alex Perez (24-6) vs Matt Schnell (15-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A super fun flyweight bout up next. Perez makes his return to the cage after his title fight submission loss to Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 255, while Schnell looks to return to winning ways after a decision loss to Rogerio Bontorin at UFC 262 earlier this year.
Perez is a very well-rounded fighter with good boxing skills and some excellent grappling skills too, while Schnell is equally well-rounded with some decent submission skills and a good high guard when striking, although he doesn’t have show-stopping one-punch power. His wrestling isn’t the best and I think Perez has the edge there, while on the feet he also has a disadvantage int his match up.
Schnell’s best hope in this one is to either clip Perez on the feet in an exchange, or locking up a submission in a scramble. Perez is likely to be able to out-box him in a striking battle and he has the grappling to survive for the most part so I think he grinds him down on the feet with leg kicks and lands the bigger shots in the fight to earn the judge’s decision. PICK – Alex Perez via Decision
Miranda Maverick (11-3) vs Erin Blanchfield (7-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A really, really competitive women’s flyweight bout closes out the early prelims section of the card. Maverick suffered a close defeat to Maycee Barber last time out at UFC Vegas 32 to snap a five-fight win streak, and replaces her in this fight. Blanchfield made it four wins in a row when she earned a decision over Sarah Alpar at UFC Vegas 37.
Maverick is a solid wrestler who looks to take her opponents down and grind them down with ground-and-pound attacks, while her power on the feet is good too. Blanchfield is of a similar ilk, with brilliant wrestling and a very good jiu-jitsu game while her striking game has seen huge improvements in recent years.
This is such a 50/50 fight that it’s really hard to pick. I think Maverick has a slight edge in wrestling, but Blanchfield definitely has the submission edge in grappling exchanges while Maverick probably has a slight edge in striking. Defensively Maverick leaves herself open a lot, but her experience against top level opponents is also a factor. Ultimately, it’ll be razor thin but I think Maverick can use that experience to earn a decision win. PICK – Erin Blanchfield via Decision
Arguably the best fight of the year not on a pay-per-view card headlines UFC Vegas 32 this weekend as Cory Sandhagen puts his number one contender status on the line against the returning former champion TJ Dillashaw.
Elsewhere on the card, two young female prospects go head-to-head when Miranda Maverick and Maycee Barber square off on the main card in the flyweight division. Knockout sensation Adrian Yanez also returns to the octagon to take on Randy Costa too.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 31, we went 7/10 with one perfect pick on the night to move up to 370/576 (64.24%) with 164 perfect picks (44.32%).
We’ll look to improve on that here with this 13-fight card and after starting with the early prelims here and finishing off our prelims picks here, we move on to our main card picks here.
Adrian Yanez (13-3) vs Randy Costa (6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Yanez has been dubbed the ‘mini Masvidal’ for his brilliant boxing skills and great kicks to the body, while Costa is a fantastic striker himself. Yanez is really good at setting up his kicks to the body and he has genuine knockout power in his hands. Costa on the other hand is a tricky fighter who switches stances, and that could allow Yanez to catch him on the inside.
It’s due to be a phenomenal striking battle and neither will want to give up anything against the other which could see a finish and I think Yanez will edge it, but don’t be surprised if Costa scores the win. PICK – Adrian Yanez via Knockout, Round 2
Miranda Maverick (11-2) vs Maycee Barber (8-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Maverick and Barber are both excellent strikers with genuine knockout power. Barber is a very solid wrestler who will look to hold her opponent down and slam ground and pound until she separates them from their consciousness. Maverick is really good at throwing in combinations on the feet and using her elbows and kicks well.
It’s a really tight fight and one that could well be the birth of a star and also fight of the night. Both have a path to victory but I think if they both tire, Maverick’s technique may help her out to land the better shots late and eek a close decision win. PICK – Miranda Maverick via Decision
Darren Elkins (26-9) vs Darrick Minner (26-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Elkins is a well rounded fighter who is excellent at firing strikes with volume and pushing the pace. Minner on the other hand is a remarkable submission artist with 22 of his 26 wins coming via tap out. Elkins has some good body kicks and solid wrestling too and his scrambles are solid but Minner is so good on the ground it might not even matter.
‘The Damage’ is 37 now though and past his prime and while he beat Garagorri, that’s not a big teller of where he is right now. Minner on the ground is unreal and this fight will almost certainly go to the ground, so I can’t see how he doesn’t secure a submission once again. PICK – Darrick Minner via Submission, Round 2
Kyler Phillips (9-1) vs Raulian Paiva (20-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Phillips is a solid striker on the feet with a background in wrestling to fall on where needed. He’s got good kickboxing and mixes it well with takedowns and makes it really hard to make reads on him for his opponents. Paiva is a good striker in his own right but he is a flyweight moving up and that won’t stand him in good stead here.
Phillips is bigger, stronger, more well rounded and this should be a pretty easy win barring something miraculous happening. PICK – Kyler Phillips via Decision
Aspen Ladd (9-1) vs Macy Chiasson (8-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing fight at the top of the women’s bantamweight division as Aspen Ladd takes on Macy Chiasson. Ladd is a great striker, who’s only defeat came in just 16 seconds against Germaine De Randamie. She bounced back from that with an impressive KO win over Yana Kunitskaya back in 2019 but hasn’t fought since. Chiasson won TUF 28 and has since gone 4-1 in the UFC proper, with her most recent win coming against Marion Reneau at UFC Vegas 22.
Ladd is a brilliant wrestler who has some violent ground and pound and vicious striking on the feet to go with it, while Chiasson is a super well-rounded fighter herself too with an even split of finishes via knockout and submission. Ladd is returning from a torn ACL/MCL injury but while Chiasson has got some good names on her resumé she’s not fought anyone of the calibre of Ladd before.
Ladd is powerful, quick, a great striker and has the advantage with the wrestling too which means she can dictate where this fight goes. Because of that, she’ll only need one takedown per round to control and land some vicious shots and therefore I think she’ll get the win. PICK – Aspen Ladd via Knockout, Round 2
Cory Sandhagen (14-2) vs TJ Dillashaw (17-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Arguably the best main event of the year so far for a fight night card, Sandhagen takes on the returning Dillashaw in the headline fight. Sandhagen has won nine of his last 10 fights, including two in a row against Marlon Moraes at UFC Fight Island 5 and Frankie Edgar at UFC Vegas 18. Dillashaw is coming off a two-year suspension for failing a drugs test, after losing in under a minute to Henry Cejudo at flyweight last time out.
Sandhagen is an amazing technical striker, with his last two wins coming via a spinning wheel kick followed by ground and pound and then a flying knee walk-off KO. Dillashaw is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division with excellent wrestling and powerful striking and kicks. Having been out for two years though, at this level, is something that is incredibly tough to overcome.
If Dillashaw can get in and wrestle Sandhagen he has a good chance, but ‘Sandman’ is one of the best at range management in the division and he has been very active while Dillashaw has been away. For that reason, I think he’s able to secure a huge win for his career in a real banger of a fight. PICK – Cory Sandhagen via Decision
Marc-Andre Barriault def Abu Azaitar via Knockout, Round 3 (4:56)
Fast start to the bout for Azaitar as he comes out with some powerful hooks to begin but they miss the target for the most part. Barriault throws a hook back that makes Azaitar lose his balance and the two clinch up against the cage but Barriault accidentally lands a low blow for a short pause in the action. Azaitar comes forward very aggressively once more, with flurrys that end with a nice knee to the body before another clinch. Nice elbow in the clinch from Barriault but Azaitar responds with a big knee in the clinch that lands flush. Azaitar working the body well as they clinch up once again and staying very busy as we enter the final 90 seconds of the round. More knees to the body in the clinch from Azaitar but Barriault stay in there and eating, while returning with shots of his own. Nice counter left from Barriault lands in an exchange but Azaitar should take that round. 10-9.
Barriault takes the centre at the start of this round and is landing his jab well early on as Azaitar looks considerably slower than the first round. Barriault landing the better shots but then Azaitar comes forward with a nice leg kick. Azaitar throws a big hook that lands and wobbles Barriault, but he continues to come forward and continues to push a fast pace. Azaitar looks for a takedown, which his corner isn’t happy about, but Barriault defends it well to keep the fight standing. Big one-two lands from Barriault as Azaitar takes a big deep breath and is slowing down a lot. Nice uppercut lands from Azaitar and then a front kick lands but he’s very lathargic with his strikes and Barriault is walking him down now with big right hands. Barriault slips a left hook and lands three strikes in a row that wobble Azaitar but he’s staying in there and survives the round! 19-19.
Barriault takes the centre at the start of the third round and eats a big leg kick to make up ground and start landing big right hands. Azaitar is stiffened up and is fighting purely off instinct right now. Barriault lands a big right hand that drops Azaitar but the referee doesn’t stop it. Azaitar spits out his mouth guard with Barriault on top landing ground and pound and the referee stops the fight to allow him to put it back in and then the ground and pound continues, with Barriault landing huge shots. Azaitar continuing to move but it’s pure instinct and he’s taking a battering right now. This fight could be stopped at any moment but Azaitar is trying to move away. Barriault keeps landing huge strikes on the ground but the referee is letting them go with 30 seconds to go. Barriault is battering him and somehow Azaitar is surviving but the referee ends the bout with four seconds remaining! Huge win for the Canadian.
Omar Morales def Shane Young via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Slow fight to this bout as both men engage in a feeling out process, both circling and flicking jabs but not going too hard. Young checks a leg kick from Morales and then both continue to just throw out feelers. Young pushes forward for a takedown against the cage but Morales defends well, puts in a body lock and reverses the position before picking up and dropping Young. Young gets back to his feet quickly and they clinch up against the cage to a stalemate as we enter the final minute of the round. Morales lands a nice uppercut as Young tries to enter for another takedown and they clinch up once more as the round ends. 10-9 Morales, but close.
Second round starts and Morales throws a leg kick pretty early that gets caught and Young immediately moves into top position. Morales defending off his back and as Young moves for a leg lock, Morales is able to stuff it and get back to his feet quickly. Morales doing well on the feet with a nice jab and some good leg kicks too, but Young is checking them well and closing the distance well. Young shoots in for a takedown again but Morales defends it well, then throws a knee that just misses. Morales takes the centre well and forces Young backwards then lands a nice leg kick, followed by an uppercut that Young just eats. Two jabs and then a one-two from Morales lands clean and forces Young backwards again. Morales pours on the pressure towards the end of the round with his right hand and a knee attempt as they end in a clinch. 20-18 Morales for me.
Morales looks to take the centre early in the third round and throws his jab well, but Young does well to change it around and they clinch in the centre. Morales is able to get a trip and gets into a dominant position in side control, but Young is able to scramble and chase a single leg takedown of his own to get back to his feet. They clinch against the cage again and Young shows a physical strength advantage, but Morales lands a couple of nice leg kicks as they separate and fighting well behind his jab. Nice right hand lands from Morales as we enter the final minute, but Young keeps coming forward and then ducks a high kick to look for a takedown but Morales defends well to end the fight and likely take the win. 30-27 Morales.
Michal Oleksiejczuk def Modestas Bukauskas via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Bukauskas opens the fight with a spinning heel kick that misses by a matter of inches, before Michal steps forward and lands a big left hand early. BUkauskas lands a decent right hand but Michal is walking him towards the cage well. Bukauskas shoots for a takedown but it’s well stuffed, before a clinch exchange allows Bukauskas to show his strength advantage as he powers him all the way across the octagon. Bukauskas lands a nice right hand flush and then steps forward with a nice flurry that hurts Michal! He goes for a finish but Michal defends well and recovers. Bukauskas throws a straight that Michal slips and throws a big overhand left that lands clean! Michal starts walking Bukauskas backwards again and misses with a left hand but then lands a nice right hand. Bukauskas throwing lots of kicks to try and maintain the distance but Michal continues to step forward and close it. Both men land a few more shots and Bukauskas ends the round with a head kick that is partially blocked. Really competitive round, I lean 10-9 to Bukauskas.
Second round is more of the same, as Michal comes forward and throws lots of hooks but Bukauskas continues to circle on the outside and uses his length well to keep a distance. Michal keeps marching forward and lands a nice left hand but Bukauskas eats it well. Michal throws it again and lands flush on the chin, but Bukauskas continues to move well and then throws a nice front kick to the body. Bukauskas lands two straight rights nicely then misses a wild overhand, as Michal looks to grab a leg but does nothing with is. Bukauskas lands a nice lead elbow but Michal clinches up and eats it, before Bukauskas shows the physicality advantage again and is able to reverse the position and then separate. Bukauskas lands a head kick and then ends with a round with a big flurry of hooks that land, but Michal still there and probably takes that round. 19-19 for me but it’s close.
Bukauskas and Michal in the final round following a similar pattern to the previous two, with Bukauskas circling on the outside. Both men throw a right hook but it’s Bukauskas who lands better and then he follows it up with a straight and an uppercut too. Michal goes in for a body lock looking for a takedown but Bukauskas defends it really well and uses the cage well to keep the fight standing. Michal throws a couple of knees but nothing that troubles Bukauskas who is able to separate and is starting to land some good strikes of his own. Michal continues to march forward but Bukauskas is happy to trade with him now as we enter the final 90 seconds. Big right hook lands from Michal but Bukauskas eats it and throws a right hand of his own. Michal throws a huge uppercut to the body that has really hurt Bukauskas but Michal hasn’t noticed how hurt he is and both men go out swinging as the fight goes the distance. Great fight, 29-28 Bukauskas for me.
Abubakar Nurmagomedov def Jared Gooden via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Gooden opens up the round super relaxed, carrying his hands down by his hips ready for any takedown attempts and throwing some jabs that immediately redden the eye of Nurmagomedov. Gooden has a big speed advantage and is able to get in and out quickly but Nurmagomedov not rushing for any grappling and is throwing his jab very well too. Nurmagomedov closes the distance and lands a big one-two flush on Gooden’s chin that rocks him! He closes the distance and looks to take the fight down but Gooden is able to escape quickly. Nurmagomedov throws a strong leg kick and then a big knee in the clinch too. Another jab from Nurmagomedov has Gooden backing up and he’s now started to carry his hands a bit higher in respect of Nurmagomedov’s strikes. A big left hook from Nurmagomedov lands again and he just misses with a follow up head kick, then ends the round with a nice jab. 10-9 Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov takes the centre in the second round and lands his jab well once again as Gooden starts to throw his right hand some more. Nurmagomedov steps back and slips the punches brilliantly before landing a nice right hand of his own. Nurmagomedov is piecing Gooden up on the feet right now, completely dominating the striking exchanges. Big right hand lands and then throws a huge head kick that lands and hurts Gooden! Nurmagomedov backs Gooden against the cage and looks for a clinch, throwing elbows and a nice left hand. Gooden can’t get near him right now as he eats another jab flush to the nose. Big left hand lands clean on Gooden whose chin is holding up well right now as the round comes to an end. 20-18 Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov using his jab once again early on, completing in control of the striking exchanges. Gooden takes the centre and loads up a nice uppercut but Nurmagomedov shoots in for a takedown and ends up with a body lock on the back. He picks him up and drops him down, but Gooden does well to get back to his feet before Nurmagomedov shoots in for a takedown once again and ends up on top. Gooden throwing great elbows from the bottom but Nurmagomedov eating them well and controlling the position before landing some ground and pound of his own. He steps over into half guard and starts setting up an arm triangle, but Gooden is aware and defending it well. Both men throwing body strikes on the ground as we enter the final minute of the round. Nurmagomedov controls the position for the remainder of the round and should take a comfortable decision win.
Menifield comes out flying with a big one two and then goes for a takedown early. Cherant looks to lock up a guillotine but Menifield is able to turn him and slam him down with a big takedown into side control. Cherant keeps hold of the neck, all the while Menifield is synching in a Von Flue choke. He gets it tight and heavy and Cherant has no choice but to tap out! What a win for Menifield!
Jamie Mullarkey def Khama Worthy via Knockout, Round 1 (0:46)
Fast start to the round for both guys as Mullarkey lands a nice left hand early before Worthy responds with a couple of jabs. Mullarkey fakes a couple of shots and then throws a big, tight left hook that catches Worthy on the chin and gets him wobbling and faceplants! Mullarkey rushes in with a few ground and pound strikes and the referee steps in the wave it off! Huge win for Mullarkey!
Miranda Maverick def Gillian Robertson via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Nice active start to the fight from both ladies, with Maverick throwing nice combinations early and staying out of range of Robertson’s attacks. Maverick holding the centre well and and landing the better strikes in the exchanges on the feet, but Robertson not backing up too much and throwing some strikes of her own. Maverick lands a nice short-right hook and lots of leading leg kicks to the body. Maverick pushes Robertson onto the ground and then jumps on top with really heavy top pressure, then lands a couple of ground and pound strikes as Robertson looks to get back up to her feet. Maverick shoots a power double leg and gets the fight down with ease as the round comes to an end to take the opening round. 10-9 Maverick.
Busy start to the second round for Maverick as she seems to be more aggressive, landing some heavy punches and coming forward with more intent. Nice superman punch lands from Maverick then Robertson changes levels and shoots in for a takedown, then secures top position. Maverick tries to escape by kicking out and swinging her hips, but Robertson adjusts perfectly and looks to take the back now. Robertson sticking to her like glue and trying to find submissions, but Maverick is doing well to keep moving and not settling for positions. Robertson keeps looking for the positions but Maverick is eventually able to get back to the feet with about 45 seconds remaining in the round. Maverick spends the rest of the round walking Robertson down and landing big shots against the cage but should still be a Robertson round. 19-19.
Maverick comes out swinging in this third round and is walking Robertson down, landing some big straight punches. Robertson shoots for takedowns but Maverick defends them twice and then is able to take Robertson’s back herself. She switches into full mount and then side control and is landing some big ground and pound strikes, but Robertson is threatening with an armbar. Maverick is able to escape the armbar and gets back on top to land more ground and pound. Robertson tries to sweep her but Maverick too strong and gets back to the feet. Maverick lands a couple of straights against the cage then shoots for a takedown of her own and sees out the round in a dominant position to take a decision.
Sean O’Malley def Thomas Almeida via Knockout, Round 3 (3:52)
Good start to the round for O’Malley as he opens with a clean one-two on Almeida’s chin. O’Malley switching stances well and landing kicks to the body and legs, with Almeida seeming quite hesitant early on. O’Malley lands another one-two and then a nice spinning back kick to the body before Almeida lands a big hook of his own. O’Malley throws a big head kick that seems to land with the knee and then a big left hand drops Almeida! O’Malley walks away but the referee doesn’t wave the fight off and he goes back in with a spin kick that misses. O’Malley looking for style points for a finish but Almeida has recovered now and O’Malley sees the round out with some more clean striking. 10-9 O’Malley for sure.
O’Malley opens up with some front kicks to the body and a calf kick, but Almeida coming forward still and lands a couple of leg kicks of his own. O’Malley landing with his left hand in a one-two quite cleanly and often, but Almeida refusing to go away. Some knee stomps from O’Malley and kicks as he continues to switch stances, showing great speed to be first in the exchanges. O’Malley goes for a flying knee towards the end of the round and misses, falling onto his back. Almeida lands a big shot on the ground but O’Malley uses his long legs to defend really well and sees out the round. 20-18 O’Malley.
O’Malley opens up the round with a huge calf kick that takes Almeida’s balance away, before a knee stomp once again makes Almeida very uncomfortable. A few more leg kicks land and then O’Malley throws a nice one-two, but Almeida continues to come forward. Exchange near the cage and Almeida lands a decent left hand, but O’Malley continues to slip the majority of the shots and landing well himself. Beautiful one-two from O’Malley lands and Almeida just can’t get near him. Huge left hand as he moves backwards catches Almeida and drops him and O’Malley tries to walk off again but the referee doesn’t stop it again! O’Malley strolls over and lands one nasty ground strike that puts his lights out and that’s that! The ‘Suga’ show is back!
Woodley comes out and immediately goes for a body lock and takedown against the cage. Luque defends it well and is able to rotate Woodley against the cage, but they fight to a stalemate and eventually separate. Woodley lands a big overhand right and then a couple of one-twos before going back to his wrestling, where Luque is able to steady him and get him back against the cage. Luque throwing punches to the body while Woodley looks for knees as they clinch up before separating. Woodley throws a huge right hand that wobbles Luque and he goes for the kill with big punches, then Luque fires back with a huge right overhand that lands on Woodley’s chin and wobbles him! Luque comes forward and throws bombs and Woodley is in trouble! He throws a hook that lands on Luque and wobbles him back then goes for a takedown but his legs give out on him. Luque drops down and locks in a d’arce choke and despite fighting it against the cage, Woodley is forced to tap! Huge win for Luque!
Francis Ngannou def Stipe Miocic via Knockout, Round 2 (0:52)
Ngannou opens the round with a heavy low kick that Miocic eats and continues to circle on the outside. Miocic lands a couple of leg kicks of his own before Ngannou explodes with a big right hand that lands clean and Miocic just eats. Ngannou explodes again and Miocic shoots in for a double leg takedown but Ngannou defends it brilliantly, sprawls and is able to take Miocic down himself! He takes the back of Miocic and starts throwing some heavy shots but the champion eats them and separates. Ngannou then throws a head kick that lands clean but once again Miocic eats it. A couple more leg kicks from Miocic in the remainder of the round, but it’s a Ngannou round. 10-9.
Miocic comes out and knows he needs to be a bit more aggressive. Ngannou being patient in the middle once more and lands a nice leg kick. Ngannou throws a big left hand that rocks Miocic and drops him! He goes for the finish and lands some big shots but Miocic gets back up and eats an uppercut. Miocic lands a massive left hand of his own but Ngannou eats it and then lands a short left hook that puts Miocic’s lights out! He lands one more huge shot before the referee gets there but this is all over! NEW CHAMPION!
It’s the big one, as the baddest man on the planet is decided in the main event of UFC 260 when Stipe Miocic defends his heavyweight championship against Francis Ngannou.
The two met previously during Miocic’s first reign as champion, and he dominated to a victory but yet he is still the underdog coming into this fight. Overlooking Miocic seems crazy, but it’s happening again and not least because of the sheer power of his opponent.
Last week at UFC Vegas 22, we went 6/10 with three perfect picks to move to 262/416 (62.98%) with 118 perfect picks (45.04%).
There are scheduled to be ten bouts on this card and having already predicted the prelims here, lets look to improve it with the main card also.
Jamie Mullarkey (12-4) vs Khama Worthy (16-7) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A really fun lightweight fight between two guys looking to get back in the win column to open up this main card. Mullarkey has lost his last two bouts, dropping decisions to Brad Riddell and Faras Ziam most recently at UFC Fight Island 6. Worthy had a seven fight win streak snapped in a little over 90 seconds when he was put away but Ottman Azaitar at UFC Vegas 10 back in September.
Mullarkey is a wrestler who is capable of standing and striking, but he’s often a sitting target when it comes to the stand-up game. Worthy is a powerful striker with nine knockout wins in his career. If Mullarkey can’t get the fight to the ground, he is in big trouble. He’s got a granite chin but with the power that Worthy hits at, plus the fact that Worthy isn’t a sloppy wrestler himself, ‘The Death Star’ should be able to get himself a hard-fought victory. PICK – Khama Worthy via Knockout, Round 3
Gillian Robertson (9-5) vs Miranda Maverick (10-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Two very highly rated women’s flyweight prospects go head-to-head in this one.
Robertson is a strong wrestler who’s main aim is always to get the fight to the ground, with her six submission wins standing out on her record. Maverick is a great, technical striker with good wrestling of her own. Robertson’s striking is iffy at best, while Maverick often leaves herself open for takedowns by coming forward. Both can attack the weaknesses of their opponent but Maverick is the better all round fighter and I think she can come away with a wide decision win. PICK – Miranda Maverick via Decision
Sean O’Malley (12-1) vs Thomas Almeida (22-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
O’Malley is a super-technical striker who can work off either stance and has legitimate one-punch knockout power. Almeida is a great technical striker himself, but his biggest issue is his durability. Almeida has been knocked out whenever he’s been hit clean and O’Malley is one of the most accurate strikers in the 135lbs division. This is certainly a favourable match up for O’Malley to get back on track towards a title shot with a height, reach, technique and power advantages and he should get an impressive win. PICK – Sean O’Malley via Knockout, Round 1
Tyron Woodley (19-6-1) vs Vicente Luque (19-7-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Woodley is known for his fantastic wrestling defence and impressive knockout power, but in his last three fights he’s been gun shy when it comes to striking and has been taken down with ease. Luque is a boxer who pressures his opponents and walks them down, happy to take a shot to give one in the belief he will knock them out. Luque hits harder than any of Woodley’s last three opponents and is a long-time training partner of both Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns. If Woodley comes back in this fight and shows his old self where he throws heavy punches and threatens with his wrestling, he could very well get the win. But it’s hard to expect that from a guy who’s lost his last 14 rounds in a row and was finished in the 15th. Luque has youth on his side, is confident and has great pressure, work-rate and power, so I think he is able to get a win in this fight. PICK – Vicente Luque via Decision
Stipe Miocic (20-3) vs Francis Ngannou (15-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The baddest man on the planet will be decided as the greatest heavyweight of all-time makes the second defence of his second reign as champion against ‘The Predator’ Francis Ngannou. Miocic beat Ngannou back in 2018, before going 2-1 in a trilogy with Daniel Cormier which came to an end at UFC 252. Ngannou lost his next fight after that loss to Derrick Lewis, but has since won four-in-a-row against Curtis Blaydes, Junior Dos Santos, Cain Velasquez and Jairzinho Rozenstruik all via first round knockout.
Miocic is one of the most well-rounded heavyweights ever, with fantastic wrestling skills but also legitimate knockout power himself. Ngannou is a banger, who comes in with explosive power and one-punch knockouts. The first fight was incredibly one-sided, with Miocic wrestling his way to a dominant win. Since then, Ngannou has become “obsessed” with grappling but it’s not something we’ve been able to see in the cage yet. Miocic is quicker, the better wrestler and in the first fight he was able to eat Ngannou’s punches that landed. He’s taken a lot of damage since then, being KO’d by Cormier so whether he can take the punches this time is questionable but he is so much better than that first fight too.
Ngannou’s skillset is limited despite his success, but his power is absolutely unreal. The issue is that he’s so big his cardio just can’t go for 25 minutes. Miocic can and has several times. It only takes one punch from Ngannou, but it’s hard to see this fight going much differently to the first one – except this time I think Miocic gets the stoppage on an exhausted, grounded Ngannou. PICK – Stipe Miocic via Knockout, Round 4
In the co-main event, Maycee Barber makes a return to the flyweight division after a serious knee injury saw her miss over a year of action. She will take on Alexa Grasso with the two strikers looking to make a name for themselves inside the top ten.
Last week at UFC Vegas 18 we went 8/12 with our picks, with five perfect selections to go with it. That moves us to 224/349 (64.18%) with 101 (45.09%) perfect picks since beginning our predictions back in June 2020.
We’ll look to improve that with this 12 fight card, starting with the seven prelim fights here.
Gillian Robertson (9-5) vs Miranda Maverick (10-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Robertson is a strong wrestler who’s main aim is always to get the fight to the ground, with her six submission wins standing out on her record. Maverick is a great, technical striker with good wrestling of her own. Robertson’s striking is iffy at best, while Maverick often leaves herself open for takedowns by coming forward. Both can attack the weaknesses of their opponent but Maverick is the better all round fighter and I think she can come away with a wide decision win. PICK – Miranda Maverick via Decision
Gabe Green (9-3) vs Phil Rowe (7-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
There will be fireworks in this one, as Gabriel Green looks to bounce back from his debut defeat in the UFC against ‘The Fresh Prince’ Phil Rowe.
Green was on a six-fight win streak with six finishes before losing to Daniel Rodriuez via decision in May 2020, while Rowe is currently on a seven-fight win streak after beating Leon Shahbazyan on the Contender Series in 2019. He had several fights fall out in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but finally returns here.
Both men are incredibly powerful on the feet and have decent ground games too, although Rowe has the slight edge down there. The likelihood these two will go to war with heavy striking and it is Green who has the power advantage. He will need to get on the inside due to the big reach disadvantage, but don’t be surprised to see it happen. PICK – Gabriel Green via Knockout, Round 2
Andre Ewell (17-6) vs Chris Gutierrez (15-3-2) – (Catchweight/140lbs)
Ewell was supposed to fight against Cody Stamann last weekend, but a false positive COVID-19 test put an end to that. He was quickly re-booked for this fight with a completely different match up, as Gutierrez is a primary striker. Ewell is also a striker, who stays at range and looks to catch you on the end of his strikes. Gutierrez is a heavy leg kicker and that could have a big say on the outcome of this fight.
With that said, it’s a very even match up but I think Ewell has the striking advantage with the power and speed and he should be able to land more for a close decision win. PICK – Andre Ewell via Decision
Polyana Viana (11-4) vs Mallory Martin (7-3) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A very interesting fight down at 115lbs as Viana looks to make it consecutive wins for the first time in the UFC when she takes on Martin, looking for her first win streak in the company.
Viana had lost three in a row before getting matched up with Emily Whitmire in August and winning via submission in the first round. Martin made her debut against Virna Jandiroba who absolutely dominated her, before she got a submission win of her own against Hannah Cifers to bounce back on the same card.
Viana is the more powerful striker and has a great ground game from her back, while Martin is a competent striker with a good wrestling game. The submission game of Viana could put her off shooting for the takedowns but if she’s brave enough she should have the wrestling chops for the win. PICK – Mallory Martin via Decision
Belal Muhammad (17-3) vs Dhiego Lima (17-7) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A clash between two fighters currently on three-fight win streaks in the welterweight division should be lots of fun. Belal Muhammad has beaten Curtis Millender, Takashi Sato and then Lyman Good in June while Lima’s last fight came in 2019 with a split decision win.
Muhammad’s style is typically a boxing style that leads to takedowns and a wet blanket approach, with dominant top position and wrestling while Lima is a solid striker who has a decent ground game too. This one though is a bit of mismatch.
Muhammad has incredible wrestling and while Lima has the height and reach advantage, it doesn’t mean much when you can’t stay on the feet and stop the takedowns. Muhammad takes Lima down with ease and cruises to a dominant decision win. PICK – Belal Muhammad via Decision
Rodolfo Vieira (7-0) vs Anthony Hernandez (7-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Hot prospect Rodolfo Vieira looks to make it three wins in a row in the UFC and remain unbeaten against ‘Fluffy’ Hernandez.
Vieira is 7-0, with six submission wins including his most recent fight against Saparbek Safarov in March 2020 while Hernandez has lost two of his last three including getting knocked out in 39 seconds back in May against Kevin Holland.
Hernandez got submitted by Markus Perez in his UFC debut back in 2019, and Vieira is clear of Perez when it comes to ground game. He has better takedowns and is much more physical, which begs the question about how Hernandez stops him. The answer is he doesn’t. Hernandez’s striking is better but it means next to nothing considering he’ll probably be on his back rather quickly, and Vieira should be able to dominate to get another submission win in relatively quick fashion. PICK – Rodolfo Vieira via Submission, Round 1
After a month-long stay on UFC Fight Island, the grand finale is upon us as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his UFC lightweight championship against interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.
A stacked card, with a six-fight main card, has been put together for the fans’ viewing pleasure and should be one of the best events we’ve seen since the pandemic started back in March.
With 12 fights scheduled to take place, I will break down each fight and give my prediction as to the winner, method of victory and round while giving my analysis on both fighters too.
Last weekend I got a very respectable 8/11 correct predictions with three perfect picks, so lets see if I can better that on this 12 fight card.
Joel Alvarez (17-2) vs Alexander Yakovlev (25-10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Joel Alvarez makes his return to Fight Island on the card opener in this one where he takes on veteran lightweight Alexander Yakovlev. Alvarez has won 12 of his last 13 fights, including his last two in a row and has never won a fight via the judges scorecards. Yakovlev on the other hand has lost three of his last four and this will be only his fourth fight since losing to Kamaru Usman in 2016. Alvarez has stunning submission skills but his striking isn’t his strong suit, while Yakovlev is a wrestler who uses his striking to open up the takedown. The issue with that is that if he takes it to the ground, it opens him up to all of Alvarez’s submission game and that will be his downfall. Alvarez takes the neck for a guillotine submission win. PICK – Joel Alvarez via Submission, Round 1
Liana Jojua (8-3) vs Miranda Maverick (7-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
In the women’s flyweight division, it’s a debut for Invicta’s Miranda Maverick where she takes on Liana Jojua. Jojua is a submission artist who has five of her career wins come by armbar, including her last win over Diana Belbita on Fight Island back in July. Maverick is a strong striker and wrestler who also the majority of her career wins via submission. Jojua’s best chance of winning the fight is by getting a takedown and working her submissions, but Maverick has a huge edge when it comes to takedown defence and offence so if anyone is getting taken down in this fight it’s Jojua. With her top control and striking to set it up, I can’t see past Maverick dominating for a comfortable decision win. PICK – Miranda Maverick via Unanimous Decision
Nathaniel Wood (17-4) vs Casey Kenney (15-2-1) – (Catchweight/140lbs)
A fight that was put together at short notice sees Brit Nathaniel Wood look to make it back-to-back wins in the UFC when he takes on highly rated Casey Kenney at a catchweight. Both fighters come into this one 4-1 in their five UFC appearances and that’s only the start of where their similarities begin. Both are solid strikers that rely on wrestling and scrambles in the octagon while they also have great cardio, hand speed and decent power in their hands. Wood is two years younger than Kenney but he has more professional bouts so he has the ever so slight experience edge. It’s a fight that will likely be decided by who can establish their wrestling game more and I believe that Kenney may have the advantage in that aspect. With that said, Wood is a natural finisher in the cage with only three decisions in his career while Kenney has gone the distance ten times. Wood has the skillset to hurt Kenney and if he does, I back him to finish it. It’s a real coin flip of a fight but I’m going to be slightly biased and go with the Brit. PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Unanimous Decision
Da Un Jung (13-2) vs Sam Alvey (33-14 1NC) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
In what will be his fifth UFC bout, Sam Alvey comes into this fight on a four-fight losing streak to take on Korean power-puncher Da Un Jung. Jung is undefeated in the octagon, submitting Khadis Ibragimov before knocking out Mike Rodriguez in under a minute in his first two UFC fights. Alvey has been knocked out twice during this four-fight streak and despite being known as a power puncher himself, he has won a fight via that method just once in his last 11 bouts – stretching back to 2016. His chin looks like it’s cracking and Jung hits so hard that I think this will be the last time we see Alvey in the UFC as a fifth loss in a row will likely see him released. PICK – Da Un Jung via Knockout, Round 2
Alex Oliveira (22-8-1) vs Shavkat Rakhmonov (12-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Another contender for potential fight of the night in this one as ‘Cowboy’ Alex Oliveira steps up on short notice to take on undefeated Kazakhstani Shavkat Rakhmonov. Rakhmonov has 12 wins and 12 finishes, never seeing a professional fight going beyond the second round before. Alex Oliveira is a veteran of the UFC and is currently on a two-fight winning streak, defeating Peter Sobotta last time out on Fight Island via decision. Oliveira is a tricky welterweight with solid but unorthodox striking as well as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, while Rakhmonov is a very talented striker with a good top control game. This is another coin flip of a fight in all honesty. Rakhmonov’s power has seen him starch guys early on, but we’ve seen Oliveira ride out the storm before and even knock guys out himself. I’m going to go with my gut on this one and say the step-up in level of competition for Rakhmonov might be a little too much here and Oliveira can ride out a close decision win. PICK – Alex Oliveira via Unanimous Decision
Stefan Struve (29-12) vs Tai Tuivasa (10-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Two heavyweights who are arguably fighting for their UFC careers in this bout as Stefan Struve looks to bounce back from a defeat to Ben Rothwell against Tai Tuivasa who is looking to snap a three-fight losing streak. Struve is a submission specialist who stands at 7 foot tall, while Tuivasa is a knockout machine who’s recently been found out in the octagon. It led to his UFC release earlier this year but he is back for a Fight Island card and looking to make the most of his second chance. Struve himself left the UFC for a retirement stint before realising he couldn’t stay away and is since 1-1 in the company. It really is a fight that is determined by where it goes. If it stays on the feet then Tuivasa has more than enough power and striking credentials to put Struve to sleep, but if it goes to the ground then Tuivasa is like a fish out of water and Struve will tap him out. As I see it going though, Tuivasa will walk forward and back Struve against the cage before crashing heavy punches in for a knockout win. PICK – Tai Tuivasa via Knockout, Round 1